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How will my Poly Finished Basses Age?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by LWagner, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. LWagner


    Dec 6, 2010
    Simi Valley Ca
    I have a bunch of modern area Fender all with poly finishes. I always see beautiful pictures of old nitro bases that IMO look amazing aged. I know the current Fenders have a thick coat of poly. I've seen alot of poly finishes with chips and almost "chuncks" of the poly coming off. Will this be the fate of all poly basses as they grow old ?
  2. The only things that are gunna survive the nuclear apocalypse are cockroaches and Fender poly basses :bag:
    Alan Ace Cooper likes this.
  3. SJan3

    SJan3 Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2010
    Well, unless you got a Highway One, American vintage or custom shop, I'm afraid you will not experience the aged nitro look. Sorry..
  4. SJan3

    SJan3 Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2010
    ...unless you get a road worn but I'm not sold on the authenticity of those finishes.
  5. Chips are from them be hit on something. Same with chunks. Cracks come from extreme swings in temp.

    Nitro has it's issues. Be very careful what stand, case, gigbag, wall hanger etc. you use. A lot of modern materials can react with the finish and damage it.
  6. Finish "checking" can easily be done with a razor blade, but there is a bit of artistry involved. And you'd be amazed at what a piece of sand paper can do.
  7. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    The early '70's poly coats would often come off in chunks,waving the wood underneath visible with a clear sealant coat. I guess they didn't bind well sometimes. There was some variation in methods used, seems like all kinds of variations popped up.
  8. LWagner


    Dec 6, 2010
    Simi Valley Ca
    I don't want to relic my basses. I was more interested in how they would naturally age.:bassist:
  9. Well in terms of natural aging, you can at least expect some color change of the maple on the necks and headstocks. Even without the benefit of nitro, maple's natural tendency is to get darker or yellow with age and exposure to sunlight. Also if your fretboard is rosewood, that is unfinished and can achieve the same patina as any vintage bass you see today. Happy Chanukah!
  10. bobalu


    Oct 1, 2004
    above the 49th
    I have an Olympic White '74 jazz bass that was very well cared for. The Poly is unchanged.
    However, the paint itself has yellowed/faded a bit as well as the maple neck and fretboard. (I have a 2011 Oly White P-bass that I compared it to). This is the wood aging/reacting to UV light underneath the poly finish. I don't know what modern paint finishes will do over the years, but maple will change colour with age no matter what kind of clear coat you put over it (some more rapidly than others). I'm guessing that the modern paints will be quite stable over time.
  11. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    I have a new Am Dlx P, and have just ordered an Am Dlx J, both with a clear finish, and I was wondering if any substantial damage were to occurr to a clear poly finish, if it could be re-finished without it being obvious.
  12. bootsox


    Apr 28, 2012
    Biloxi, MS
    I have a white '78 T40, the only visible change to the finish is a little bit of yellowing from being around cigarette smoke. poly is indestructable
  13. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    And Twinkies.
  14. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    In my experience, it's the nitro lacquer that darkens over time from UV exposure, not the wood. I do a lot of restorations on 1960's Ampegs, and when I scrape off the old nitro lacquer, the bare 45 year old maple is about the same color as fresh maple. Now, it's true that if you left unfinished maple out in the sun, it will darken (and crack, and rot!). But the finish protects the wood from the sun.

    The only places where the wood gets darkened is where the finish is cracked or chipped. When I scrape off a lacquer finish that has a bunch of age crack lines, there's a "suntan" of dark lines in the maple matching the pattern of the cracks. The lines are some combination of UV darkening and soaking in of grease and grime.

    From what I've seen so far, modern polyester and polyurethane finishes don't significantly darken with age. Maybe they will have darkened some in 50 years, but I doubt it. Basses that I painted 15 years ago with polyurethane haven't shown any signs of darkening. The amber on the backs of the necks is a tint that I added when I sprayed it.

    So, instruments finished in poly probably won't darken with age, but instruments finished in nitro lacquer almost certainly will. The modern water-based polyurethane-acrylics that many of us smaller luthiers are using these days also appear to be very stable and not likely to darken.

    The important thing is the the integrity of the finish. If you chip it, seal it back up. Try not to expose it too much to direct sunlight. The modern finishes are much more resistant to sunlight, but too much heat can still cause them to buckle, shrink, and crack.
  15. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    Interesting Bruce, thanks for the info.
  16. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Allot of the older Fender's wore and yellowed. I have a mid 70's Musicmaster that was vintage white and is now a dark Nicotine yellow. Today's poly will outlast us all and never change.
  17. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    I bought a 68 Tele in 1975 that had chunks missing in the thick poly finish. When I refinished it, I could not get that thick finish off. Sanding didn't touch it, and strippers wouldn't soften it. I ended up skimming the finish off with a 3/4" router bit.

    I have a 1995 Peavey Axcellerator 5 string bass...metallic red poly. Although I don't baby any of my instruments and it only saw a case on the way to gigs, there still isn't a scratch on the bass. That is one tough finish.

    The white MOTS pickguard has turned yellow, but the red is as vibrant and bright as the day I bought it, in 1996.
  18. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    I've found that poly finishes can change over time. Sometimes they darken, sometimes they fade-
  19. A newer poly finish will age like Keannu Reeves or Tom Cruise. Barely at all, but the electronics & hardware will eventually become bat-sh** crazy. :p